The Good Empty Nest Syndrome: "We Enjoy Life More Because We Come Here"



There may be an underlying reason why New Year’s Eve at French Lick Resort ranks No. 1 on the list for Russell and Susan Pikus.

Going on 37 years of marriage, the Pikuses are regulars at French Lick Resort. Sometimes more than 20 visits per year, and maybe 100 overall by Susan’s estimation. They’ve seen it all. They’ve done it all. But they agree New Year’s Eve is their favorite day of the year at the resort — because it’s a night they have to themselves.

Finally.

“Raising kids we didn’t go out New Year’s Eve,” Russell explained. “We had New Year’s Eve parties for the kids.”

“And then once they left, it’s like, ‘Ooh, it’s our turn now,’” Susan finished. New Year’s Eve is the absolute best. I can’t imagine going anywhere else. We’ve been to about five of the New Year’s parties, and we won’t ever miss it now because we like it so much.”

Ahhh, the freedom of being empty nesters.

For years, their lives orbited around their five kids and their whirlwind of activities, with little leisure time for just the two of them. (As every parent who’s reading this right now is probably nodding in agreement.) When the last kid graduated and moved out of the house, that was Russell and Susan’s cue to get out of the house, too.

Dinner at 1875: The Steakhouse has been
a popular part of the itinerary in the
dozens of times Russell and Susan have
visited French Lick Resort over the years.
“This is a good date place, right?” Russell asks his wife, chuckling. “Good date place for married couples.”

They got the feeling about it starting with the first time they ever visited.

Russell and Susan came here to celebrate an anniversary, and they had booked reservations at French Lick Springs Hotel. But being their first time in town, they stopped at the first huge hotel they saw coming into town — West Baden Springs Hotel. Luckily, they’d come on a night where a little mix-up could be fixed right there on the spot.

“When they knew it was our anniversary and there was room (at West Baden), they just let us stay there and accommodated us that way. And that was just awesome,” Susan recalls.

They’ve been back dozens and dozens of times and have explored every corner of the resort together. Couple’s massages at the spa. ChocolateFestival. Carriage rides. Concerts. Wine and Dessert SoirĂ©e. Every visit brings something new. As well as the chance to get out and enjoy different things on their own — Russell will hit up the golf course while the casino is more of Susan’s happy place.

Susan’s mother, on her 95th birthday, even stayed up with her daughter into the wee hours of the morning at the casino when the family brought about 20 people to the resort for a birthday celebration. For a very different landmark birthday — the 21st birthday of their twin daughters — the Pikus crew was here at the resort for that, too.

And when they’ve had friends visit Indiana from Chicago or Florida, they don’t stay in. It’s all about getting out to somewhere special. Susan sums it up with a pretty good reason why: “I’d just rather come here and have fun, instead of stay home and cook and cook and cook.”

By this point, they’ve visited so many times that Susan in on a first-name basis with Barb from the hotel’s Signature Shop. She remembers meeting Susan’s daughters and always asks how they’re doing. And Susan has gotten to be so close with her casino hosts that they’re always on her Christmas list every year.

Their nest may have emptied a few years ago, but things don’t feel empty. A love for travel has a way of keeping you feeling full.

“Really,” Susan says, “we enjoy life more because we come here.”

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